CHARLESTON — The last time Greenbrier West made the state tournament, it was after a 27-year hiatus.
The Cavaliers didn't have to wait as long this time.
For the second time in three seasons the Cavs will take the court at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., searching for the program's first state tournament win since the 1992 team won it all.
Though that task won't be easy.
Standing in their way is unbeaten Pendleton County, which is riding a 38-game win streak dating back to the beginning of last season.
"They're very well-coached and very fundamentally sound," West head coach Jared Robertson said. "All the little things you try to harp on high school kids to do, they do. They box out, they cut off driving lanes, they make the extra pass — all the little things. You can just tell they play well together and do a lot of good things. And when you do that you usually win ball games and when you watch them on film it's no surprise that they keep winning a lot."
With their fundamentals guiding them, Robertson doesn't anticipate finding many lapses in the Pendleton defense. Instead, he'll look to exploit matchups. The big one for West will be how Pendleton guards Kaiden Pack, who has put together an all-state season for the Cavs.
"They're a packline defense team and I'm kind of curious to see how they play Pack," Robertson said. "That will impact how we try to attack them. I think it will be one of two kids. One's a bigger kid and one's a smaller, quicker kid. That will be the first thing for us to figure out — how they're trying to play us.
"Sizewise, their big kids are about 6-foot-3, so they're pretty similar to us. We might be a little bit bigger than them at guard. That may mean if they try and put the small quick kid on him, we may try and post Pack up. So we'll have to figure that one out in a hurry."
On the defensive side of the ball, Robertson anticipates giving Pendleton some looks it hasn't seen often.
"I don't know if it's an Eastern Panhandle thing, but not a lot of teams play them zone or press them," he said. "A lot of people play them man. That seems to be the defense pf the panhandle, so we're going to se how they handle a zone press and some different half-court traps and some thing like that and hopefully we can take advantage of that with their guards out front. But again they're well-coached and I know they've watched film and will be prepared for that, too."
All year West has been known for its willingness to meet team's in track meets, but has occasionally changed the tempo. An example is the regional co-final against James Monroe. The Cavs slowed the tempo and pulled off an upset. Tuesday, they hope to force Pendleton, a team that likes to slow it down, to speed up and make mistakes.
"I'm going to give our kids credit," Robertson said. "They made me a believer that we could go to James Monroe and play that style, which we have not played that way very much at all, and beat a great basketball team. It's nice to know that you have that in your hip pocket that you can change styles on the fly and our kids have done it and been successful with it, but we are definitely going to come out tomorrow and try to push tempo and get up and down the floor.
"When we were doing film study we were talking about how their opponents a lot of times fall right into their trap. When Pendleton County walks the ball up a few minutes, by the end of the first quarter the other team is walking the ball up and we can't let them dictate the tempo."
Another challenge will be the unusual start time.
The Cavs will play in the first game of the boys state tournament, bright and early at 9:30 a.m. It's not something they're used to, but they're hoping following a routine adds a little familiarity and luck.
"I told them a 7 a.m. wakeup call in a hotel gives us about an hour and 15 minutes to eat and get ready and be there at 8:30," Robertson said. "It kind of got me a few strange looks. I don't think they're happy about that start, but it's better than not being there at all. We did have a similar experience when we played at West Virginia State against Williamstown. It wasn't quite this early but we did come down and stay in a hotel, the same one we're staying in now. We kind of copied our routine from what we did that evening and what we're doing the next morning, so hopefully we can have another big win like we did against Williamstown."
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